A new culture of political accountability could be introduced into the Tauranga City Council after the shock disclosure there had been a $62 million lag in processing building consents.

"It is our problem - the buck stops here," Economic Development and Investment Committee chairman Max Mason said in response to the findings of an independent review into the council's Building Services Department.

Instead of the 20 working day consent processing requirement under the Building Act, the investigation by BDO revealed the average time taken by the council to process applications was 41 days.

The review included feedback from builders and developers that the council was overly bureaucratic in its interpretation and application of the Building Code and Building Act.


Councillor Mason said $750m worth of building consents were issued last year. Because it was taking a month longer than allowed by the Act, he extrapolated that the financial impact of pushing out consents by a month was the equivalent of one-twelfth of $750m - $62m.

He told the committee meeting that the lag in issuing consents was having an impact on the city's economic vibrancy.

Interviewed afterwards, Mr Mason said the impact included additional consultant fees by people trying to get consents through the council, lost productivity and lost profitability across the industry.

"It creates frustration and impacts on business confidence. People are having to wait an extra month."

He said the council had to develop a new culture of accountability so that anything that was not working well was out in the open.

"The council has to be accountable for what happens in the organisation. I want to make sure the right information was arriving at the right time in order to make the right decisions.''

Mr Mason said problems in the organisation were being revealed too late. The council needed monthly monitoring or at least quarterly reports on customer satisfaction.

If the council had been measuring the right indicators for building services, delays in issuing consents would not have reached the point they did, he said.

Exit interviews when staff resigned and customer satisfaction surveys were indicators when something was going wrong, he said.

Mr Mason was referring to the council stopping the practice of conducting exit interviews to find out why staff were resigning. BDO's report said the Building Services Department had a 100 per cent staff turnover in two years.

Council chief executive Garry Poole said last week after the release of the report that the council had resumed exit interviews.

Mr Mason said the council needed to take a close look at its monitoring function, and part of that was how departments were performing.

He said other departments were not delivering on budget in terms of capital spending, mostly on infrastructure. Instead of projected spending of $164m this year, it looked like the actual by the June 30 end of the financial year would be about $111m - 32 per cent under budget.

"Sixty-eight per cent of infrastructure is being delivered for the long-term future of the city."

Mr Mason said there were lots of reasons for the underspend, but closer monitoring, better planning and more investment in the right places meant the council could deliver infrastructure closer to budget.

He wanted the Audit, Finance, Risk and Monitoring Committee chaired by Gail McIntosh to find better ways of monitoring the performance of the organisation.